Duke Nukem Forever is not a good game. I wouldn’t recommend buying, or even playing it, unless you really love immature humor, and really miss The Duke. That audience exists, and they will like Duke, and that is totally okay. Have him. For the modern gamer, the one who appreciates the subtle character quirks of Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect 2 more than her outfit, Duke will come off as a relic of a bygone era of video games that many are happy to leave behind.
It should be noted that Duke Nukem Forever is not unplayable. The levels are cramped and poorly designed, the graphics are dated, the load times are atrocious, nothing in the game feels like it has any weight, but shooting the limbs off of a trampling pig alien is fun and I am not going to sit here and pretend it isn’t.
The gunplay is totally passable in that it gets the job done. It’s fast and frantic and it feels sort of classic — in a negative way. We’ve moved far beyond the shooting that Duke is doing with the Call of Duties and Halos of the world, but you can’t help but get a little nostalgic for a Quake or an Unreal Tournament, because it feels sort of similar. You also can’t help but think, I can totally understand why we’ve moved on from this.
Aside from shooting you will also be platforming, driving and even solving some very simply puzzles. The game stays fairly fresh throughout, never staying in one place for too long, but none of these areas is particularly fun. You may get tired of shooting and think, “Oh good, I get to drive around for awhile,” but then you will think, “Okay, I’m tired of driving. Let’s move on.” And then you’re pushed back into another activity that isn’t particularly fun. It’s a cycle that repeats throughout the entire game.
One of the best parts of the game is that Duke can interact with everything. Note the wording of that sentence carefully. I’m not saying that interacting with everything is fun, I’m saying that the ability to is cool. The world may not look very good, but it does feel more alive since just about every switch and button can be pushed. You’re even encouraged to do so, as certain interactive items will increase your health. Certain things like air hockey tables and pinball machines, which should be fun to interact with, very quickly become tired and frustrating.
The load times are baffling in this generation. I dropped the game down to easy not because I found the game to be challenging, but because I knew if I played on easy I would die less and would not have to wait on the game to load every few minutes. Duke is never compelling, and rarely funny (some of the load screen comments made me chuckle), and so being forced to wait to play the game that you are not even finding interesting at every death or new level makes the experience incredibly frustrating. It’s like the waiting room at the dentist’s office. I only made it to the end of Duke Nukem Forever by playing my 3DS at every load screen. It’s the only thing I could do to make the loading bearable.
Next in line for worst things about Duke Nukem Forever after load screens is the character of Duke. I don’t know if I would necessarily call him offensive, as much as I would call him totally unlikeable and not funny, which is certainly offensive in it’s own right. He’s as flat as his hair, and doesn’t ever say or do anything worthwhile. He makes sure to reference and insult games that are much better than his own like Portal and Donkey Kong. The developers likely placed these jabs at other franchises to reference the games that they like, but when Duke makes fun of Halo, it makes me realize how much better Halo is than Duke Nukem Forever.
There is also the infamous alien hive level, featuring nude from the waist up women presumably being impregnated by the aliens. It’s never entirely clear what is going on in the hive, but I can tell you that I felt uncomfortable, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.
Duke Nukem Forever also features multiplayer, which is faster and more frantic than the single-player game. Everyone plays as Duke, and things move so fast, that you never really get a sense of real tactical opportunities. The multiplayer maps are small and easily learned, which is a good thing, and your Duke can be made fairly distinguishable from the others just by doing a bit of leveling. In my short experience with the multiplayer, I was able to give Duke a pink shirt with a Texas flag on it, some purple John Lennon glasses, and a pumpkin hat. You also unlock assorted statues and art work to appear in Duke’s explorable home as you progress in multiplayer giving you some tangible rewards for your progress.
Duke Nuke Forever, as stated paragraphs ago, is not a good game. It’s dated immature, ugly and the load times will make you want to get up and do something productive. It’s good to see Duke Nukem Forever finally released, but it has not been worth the wait. The game starts with Duke urinating and if you’re not on board before that sequence is over, then just turn around and walk away. It doesn’t get any better from there.